It begins on a Monday night where, the instructions say, you must consume the contents of one of these containers of barium sulfate.
Not such a bad thing, taste-wise. You have actually consumed worse things at McDonald's or Wendy's, sweet things, taken with full knowledge that there is more potential for fill than for actual nourishment. When you ingest such a thing at McDonald's or Wendy's, you are light years away from your heritage of being desperate for sustenance.
There is, let it be said, nothing to satisfy any sense of nourishment or sustenance when following the instructions, shaking the bottle vigorously, then trying to get its chalky heaviness to descend down your throat into your very bowels. You begin the process at about ten-thirty, rewarding yourself with a page or two of Thomas Perry's latest thriller, Silence.
You have not gotten much beyond the half-way mark and it is already eleven. The instructions call for you to have ingested the first bottle by midnight. You begin to play out a scenario in which you are the cause of the Vice President of the United States being forced to ingest such contents. This is a considerable help--but not for long.
You are supposed to be here:
tomorrow morning at nine, having ingested the second bottle of barium sulfate (ugh!) upon arising. How you manage this becomes some secret between the component parts of your body and psyche. If a male can possibly be said to experience a feeling of being gravid, this is how you now feel. You feel a sense of squishiness as you approach your car, having looked longingly at the coffee-making apparatus on the gas range.
They are accommodating when you arrive, check in, and squish into a seat in the waiting area. At length a pleasant, efficient woman with a round, cheery face approaches, checks to see you are who you represent yourself to be, announces she is your nurse, describing such things that she will inflict on your body. The first of these is a spigot which is inserted in one of the two veins on the inside of your left elbow. The second is to present you with a large paper cup, filled with a fluid you recognize all too well.
"L'chaim," she explains. "Down the hatch."
"I don't know if I can," you explain back.
"Put your mind to it," she explains. "Glug glug."
Somehow, you manage the glug glug, feeling now truly bloated, weighed down with a sense of internal disharmony, as though you're eaten three or four meals at a dreary cafeteria, an intermediate step in a process where, sooner or later, you would be administered a lethal injection.
You are invited to a platform, placed in a supine position, your knees propped up somewhat by a pillow, your head thoughtfully adjusted for comfort. The rest is down hill. You have had a number of these scans in the past few years. You know all about the iodine infusion about to be flushed into the spigot on your arm, the brief delay before the warmth appears at the back of your throat, then spreads pleasingly down your spine, seeming to gather at your genitalia.
"Not to worry about the warmth," the nurse cautions. "It's natural."
"It's like falling in love," you tell her.
"I like that!" she says, then asks the other nurse if she heard what you said.
"Jeez," the other nurse says, "we don't get talk like that in here." She pats your arm. "This is a special day," she tells you. "With an attitude like that, I know you're gunna have nice results."
You have to wait until four o'clock before you find out about the results. "The scans look great," Dr. K. tells you, his face brightening as he looks up from the computer screen where images of your lower regions blink out at you like a Google map. "My experience shows the two-year mark being critical, especially for someone with as pronounced as you were." You are well past the two-year point, well on to four. "Looks like you've got another hundred thousand miles."
You are now free to rise from yet another medical platform:
This is not far off from what Tony, the service rep at the Toyota agency, told you a week or so back when you picked up your Camry.
With your numbers looking good, you are thinking about the coffee you missed earlier this morning, and you are thinking double latte now, and on with the day.